It is perhaps stating the obvious at this point to say the COVID-19 pandemic upended and changed the way in-person events are handled.
For Pflugerville Public Library Director Jennifer Griswold, this meant adapting programming when the regular in-person nature of the library was disrupted. In fact, Griswold’s staff had been preparing even prior to the widespread lockdowns.
“We really hit the ground running when COVID-19 started and we had to go into lockdown because we had actually begun preparing in February,” Griswold said. “And we began at that time planning how we were going to serve the public.”
Griswold said the library staff became a cornerstone in navigating those changes.
“Our staff’s very, very talented, and they had a lot of hidden talents that we showcased during the pandemic, like cooking and guitar instruction, that sort of thing,” she said. “So we were able to still provide meaningful service for the population and keep our staff and our guests safe at the same time.”
Eventually, the library began opening up more in-person services slowly – starting with computer use and hold pick-ups, Griswold says. In-person browsing eventually started up again, and a slow rollout of in-person programming for adults and then kids helped the library to almost regain pre-COVID attendance numbers.
“We actually start with adult programs because it’s a lot easier to get adults to understand social distancing,” Griswold said. “And then we transitioned into bringing the children’s programs back slowly, and we would limit the number of people who could sign up for a program.“
Among the more popular of these programs is Lib Con, or Library Con, a daylong event fashioned similar to Comic Con – complete with panelists, activities and cosplay. Griswold said the recent event was the first time the library had hosted in two years due to COVID and drew about 1,600 attendees.
“Getting that many people in the building at once was quite a feat,” Griswold said. “We’re very flexible with our schedule, and we always have been.“
The library’s success in navigating the challenges of the pandemic has also caught attention nationally. The Pflugerville Public Library was among those shortlisted recently for the 2022 National Media for Museum and Library Services, an honor Griswold says is considered “the Oscars” among libraries.
“We didn’t win. But, you know, if you look at the list of winners, they’re amazing,” Griswold said. “So we’re, you know, very honored to be in their company.“